LIFE IS A GIFT (and so are you, Betty): Betty Krawczyk and Trial By Jury

Two things:

One, I’m quite shocked and embarrassed how little I know about 78 year old Betty Krawczyk. The amount is nothing, really—and that is shameful.

And lately her name has been spinning around me, mentioned here, passing there. I’m at a family reunion in Kamloops, and lying in bed tonight, I just wanted to know more about Betty.

So I got up in the early hours and read.

Betty is a legendary and incredibly brave protester on behalf of the preservation of things beautiful, like young people’s lives (anti-Vietnam) and the environment (which tends to help young people and old people live).

She is truly heroic—in the same mould as, say, Ghandi (and I’m serious). And for defending her sustainable beliefs in people, non-violently, against the interests of big business, she has been repeatedly imprisoned.

Prison Time Served by Betty for BC Forest Defence (and us):

1994 – Clayoquot Sound – 4.5 months
2000 – Elaho Valley – 8.5 months
2002 – BC Working Forests – 10 days
2004 – Upper Walbran – 9.5 months
2006 – Eagleridge Bluffs – 2 months
2007 – Eagleridge Bluffs – 10 months

It’s shameful. Shameful.

Betty has seven children, and who knows how many grand-children (especially if you include the trees)? She’s in prison. For caring, it seems. For being passionate, it seems.

Geezuz, this “what is a crime?” question with the disgusting, disingenuous War On Drugs research I’ve been doing is really getting to me.

(Yes, that War On Drugs that, it turns out, does not stop drug use, charges the taxpayer to increase incarceration and brutality in a democracy, imprisons or further marginalizes large groups of people (mostly minorities), enriches wildly a small group of people (from the drug cartels to weapons makers) and consciously funds (but the media and politicians don’t really notice) counterinsurgency wars all over the world—a practice now being put to effective use by the Taliban, a group of people no female-loving person can stomach.)

But enough about me.

Now the other thing is this:

My dad gets on these jags that can be frustrating from time to time for the people he satellites, because that could be anybody at anytime. He has said, at different times, that the monetary system/the banking system/the judicial system/losing trial by jury/and the confusion between government and state etc is the root of all our problems.

I say, at different times, “Dad, there were even problems before the monetary/banking system, and there are other problems, and we are a complex and incomprehensible species in an incomprehensible but fascinating universe. I think there is more to it than the banking system.”

But then you read a little about it, and there’s a lot of truth to what he says. Lately a lot of the talk has been about Trial by Jury.

Now one barely, if ever, thinks about trial by jury (or its extinction)—which is no surprise, what with the constantly breaking news of Paris Hilton drinking and driving again (in defense of myself, I know nothing about Paris Hilton, either—although maybe there is nothing to know about Paris Hilton).

Basically, trial by jury is a jury of your peers to decide if what you have done is okay by society (unlike, say, the jury of white “peers” that went up against accused blacks in trials in the South in the 50s, 60s, 70s etc – that’s Jury with Trial).

And unlike trial by judge instead of trial by jury.

Well…how important could this be, right…?

So I’m reading about Betty tonight, it’s now 4:05 am—and so worth it—and I see this excerpt from her blog:

… Recently Mr. Wally Opal [a judge, I believe] on CKNW said that anybody in BC facing prison time could have a jury trial.

But when I called into the program and advised Mr. Opal that I was facing prison time on a Criminal Contempt of Court charge and wasn’t allowed a jury trial he said well, in my case the judge was quite right not to allow me a jury trial; as I was arrested under civil contempt and that civil contempt did not warrant a jury trial.

And yet here I am, once again convicted of Contempt of Court, not Civil, but Criminal, minus a jury trial, or the protections of the Criminal Code. My Lady, the very expediency of this method of depriving citizens of their lawful rights when they seek to protect the environment from corporate predators is quite remarkable.

I protest this, My Lady, and will protest it with my dying breath …

And it hit me, at around 3:45 am, as Betty rolls over trying to get comfortable, away from her family, in prison tonight, of course she doesn’t get Trial By Jury—because she’d win!

And with a win, she’d be, brace yourself, free to exercise her soul-given/democratic rights and new precedents would be set, and we’d all be a little more free (and we wouldn’t even feel it, but it would be right—and Betty would feel it).

And then democracy, and government by the people etc., etc., and so on, would be increased instead of constantly decreased.

Ah, Dad. Ah, Betty.

So here I am sitting in my beloved sister’s kitchen in this pre-dawn hour, family asleep all over the house, under-informed in my underwear (how appropriate).

Please add, teach, or comment on this—not my underwear—freedom, or Betty…

The world is massively complex, obviously. But little things do make a difference—and those who hate democracy know this very well. Those who love it know it too. Ah, common ground.

The process of learning goes on.

“Armed with yoga, stand and fight,” it says in the Bhagavad Gita, in one of my favourite and ironic lines, given Lululemon and the stereotypical meditating yogi.

But as we speak tonight, Betty Krawczyk is in what the yogis call an asana.

An asana to most people is the pose a good-looking woman (or man) stands in during a yoga class somewhere on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano, keeping her (or his) breathing calm, connected to the focus of their meditation (in Betty’s case, what is right), while the insane world spins around the soul of a human being.

So the asana or pose in a yoga class is metaphoric, a practice for when life comes in like a tidal wave.

What Betty is doing is the real thing.

In a just society, real warriors always protect the yogi, the teacher, and women (and of course children).

But Betty, as yogi/teacher/woman, is in prison. How revealing.

Oh, and isn’t it unsurprising, that Betty’s also reclaiming that indigenous idea of elder wisdom? For doing just that in a society where we shut away our elders in senior citizen homes as no longer useful in any ways we can understand (unless they made a fortune in business and will share that information with the up-and-comers) Betty is in prison, hated by her “wise” prosecutors.

For sharing the wisdom of peace, civil-disobedience, and a love of nature (which, for the record, we are), Betty is in prison, at 78. Shameful, really shameful.

The excerpt:

Krawczyk sees her work as an example for the potential political power of senior citizens. “I’m demonstrating that elder people can make their presence felt in society in a political way,” she says. “Elders are pushed aside in our culture. But the traditional role of elders is to be the moderators of society, to be stewards of the land. And I consider that my right as well as my responsibility.”

For the full article, press here.

Here’s an excerpt from Betty’s book “Hell no, We Won’t McBlo,” and her fight to non-violently protest Clayoquot Sound’s Old Growth Forests:

The Clayoquot Sound is crown land… The Clayoquot Sound does not belong to MacMillan-Bloedel to finish raping and pillaging, to continue destroying the land with clear-cutting which pollutes the salmon streams and causes landslides that kill the shellfish and forest animals.

And, if the government of this province has given over our property in some legal hocus-pocus to these environmental monsters, then they shouldn’t have.

And they have, in effect, stolen one of the last remaining rainforests in the world from the people of this country and are in the process of shipping it to Japan and the United States and Europe, and a lot of it goes simply for pulp and newsprint and toilet paper, magnificent old trees, hundreds, even thousands of years old, sacrificed for this.

I feel the same refusal to comply that had slowly built up in my heart toward the government of the United States over the wanton brutality of the Vietnam War…

The same hot anger washes over me again, bathing my innards and bitter-spicing my blood because I have witnessed the landslides, more than once now, I have lived with the body of the raped and beaten victim who tries to rise up behind the cove in the dry season but who is beaten back down under the torrents of rain in the winter…

I have seen it, lived with it, and, if this unconscionable destruction of life is legal, then it shouldn’t be… I will break the so-called law, which in this case is simply a court injunction, and I will pay the price.

For a quick but really clear bio about Betty, and to see her beautiful face, press here.

An excerpt that really hit me:

As a mother of seven with a nursing baby, Krawczyk avoided jail [in the States] but not harassment. Her husband’s security clearance [he was at NASA] might be revoked due to her anti-[Vietnam]war activities.

She began to hate her beautiful house and property, seeing it as a bribe. “If we would just shut up about the war, we could enjoy all the goodies we had…The only hitch was that I might be asked to pay for it with my son’s blood.”

Isn’t that a big truth about all we “possess”, when you get right down to it?

And for Betty’s blog from prison – Betty’s Early Edition – press here (it’s absurd even writing “blog from prison”).

And Betty, thank you for your endless belief in beauty, people, life, elders, nature, and for being my Guru tonight, at 5:31 am. Oh, and you, too, Dad.

Love way more—a million times more, as if that was all that ever mattered. As if, if you don’t, you’ll just burst from your own stupidity for not having loved more.

Love Pete xoxoxox

PS To hear Little Dreamer, press here. The line “Never fear the distant shore, for dreamers live forever more” feels right tonight.

And to hear Be Brave Tonight, press here.


6 Responses to “LIFE IS A GIFT (and so are you, Betty): Betty Krawczyk and Trial By Jury”

  1. Max Lindberg says:

    Great article about Betty. I had the pleasure of interviewing her on my podcast at Green Options. She’s an amazing person!


  2. Sue Rowan says:

    Lovely posting about Betty … thank you! I was arrested alongside Betty (though not with the same flare!) and just happen to be visiting her in jail tomorrow. I’ll be sure to tell her she has a kind supporter out there!

    One interesting fact you may not be aware of …. when granting the injunction against protesters, the presiding judge commented that clearly protesters were in violation of section 64(1) of the Transportation Act (obstructing construction of a new highway). Surprisingly (not surprising to Betty), in the 39 days Betty camped at the side of the Trans Canada in the wind and rain, never did the police ever mention this violation or try to uphold the law. Similarly the judge who identified Betty’s viscous attack on the Transportation Act never suggested that the police simply do their job (or perhaps he’d grant an injunction against them)! Any idea what the penalty is for violating section 64(1) of the Transportation Act? Would you believe $115! That’s gotta keep Betty awake at night, thinking about how she’ll rework her message to try and get British Columbians to recognise that civil injunctions are about intimidation, not the law (and yes, another injunction is being sought as we speak in northern BC (Skeena) by Shell International to keep protesters from trying to protect the headwaters area from coalbed methane exploration. No doubt the ‘irreparable harm’ to Shell’s finances will be seen by the courts as far more important than the irreparable harm to the health and welfare of the people and wildlife in the area). And so it goes ….

    Well anyway, I hope you sleep better tonight. All that thinking and writing has got to leave a guy a bit sleep deprived!

  3. Thanks Max…

    Wow. I’ve been able to do some wonderful interviews, with Chomsky and Stephen Lewis and others who were also amazing and generous (they are on the site).

    It’s always exceedingly inspiring. Just to keep doing whatever one does best, but with the focus of doing it for all our sisters and brothers, little by little…

    What a world – and Betty is such a great reminder of the boundaries of freedom in a so-called free world. I’ll check and see if that interview is on line…

    Lots of love to you and yours,


  4. Dear Sue – thank you. And thanks for the information. It is so incredible, the double motives of so many laws. I see it so pathologically with the War On Drugs, as I mentioned.

    It begins to get immensely easy to see whose interests are not only being protected but expanded. A continual convergence of profit and market share called freedom.

    The judicial system, and the judges, and the lack of vision and creativity in some of them, is very disappointing, yet instructive.

    I heard about the police infiltration/imitation into the protesters in Quebec, too.

    And yet the media, at best, always thinks of these disastrous “operations”, like the disastrous War On Drugs, as simply good intentions mismanaged, with no wider, ulterior motives – no matter how much it costs and how many years it fails disastrously.

    Betty’s imprisonment is a sobering microcosm of the reality and limits of what we call freedom.

    Thanks so much for your courage and passion. I wish you great inspiration, creativity and love – and may Betty sleep well tonight, too,


  5. [...] Either way, I mentioned how essential trial by jury might have been in the shameful Betty Krawczyk saga, where a 78 year-old-woman is put in prison by judge(s) who seem to me, perhaps literally or subconsciously, to loathe the integrity and freedom of the non-violent, courageous individual—in Canada no less. [...]

  6. [...] But to push against the corporate/state agenda by gathering non-violently in protest by marching or barricading or by sit-ins etc—against, say, homelessness, or for the environment, or against the bail out, the Olympics, the war(s) etc—seems to sharply increase the likelihood of generating some sort of surveillance against one’s self (COINTELPRO in the United States being the obvious example of government surveillance getting out of control), or arrest (consider the numbers at Copenhagen) or incarceration. [...]

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